Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Philadelphia (1993)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Philadelphia (1993)

In Hollywood's first major, big-budget feature film about AIDS - a landmark film by Jonathan Demme, with the effective use of Bruce Springsteen's tear-jerking Oscar-winning song Streets of Philadelphia:

  • overall: the characters of likeable, kind, forgiving, and non-threatening lawyer Andrew Beckett (Best Actor-winning Tom Hanks) who was afflicted with AIDS and became increasingly emaciated as the disease progressed, and his homophobic and judgmental ambulance-chasing, personal injury lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington)
  • the early scene of Andy's termination from his Philadelphia law firm after developing visible lesions on his face during a high-profile Highline suit; he was abruptly let go by the firm's senior partner, Charles Wheeler (Jason Robards): "Your place in the future of this firm is no longer secure. We feel it isn't fair to keep you here when your prospects are limited"
  • the scene of lawyer Joe Miller's initial rejection of Beckett in his office, when he asked: "So you were concealing your illness...Didn't you have an obligation to tell your employer you had this dreaded, deadly, infectious disease?" At the end of the conversation, Andy reacted to Miller's rejection of the case: "That's very disappointing"; Miller replied: "I don't see a case," but Andy retorted: "I have a case"
  • Miller's later reversal and his decision to represent Beckett in a wrongful termination lawsuit against his prestigious ex-law firm, after seeing how he was shunned in the New York Public Library (nervous librarian (Tracey Walter): "Sir, wouldn't you be more comfortable in a research room?" "No. Would it make you more comfortable?")
  • the scene of dying AIDS patient Andrew's powerfully transcendental, impassioned interpretation/translation of a Maria Callas opera aria "La Momma Morta" to his homophobic lawyer Joe Miller, while speaking over the music and pulling his IV with him as he accepted his own impending death: "Do you mind this music? Do you like opera?... This is my favorite aria. It's Maria Callas. It's Andrea Chenier, Umberto Giordano. This is Madeleine. She's saying how, during the French Revolution, a mob set fire to her house. And her mother died, saving her. 'Look, the place that cradled me is burning!' Do you hear the heartache in her voice? Can you feel it, Joe? Now, in come the strings, and it changes everything. The music - it fills with a hope, and it'll change again, listen. Listen. 'I bring sorrow to those who love me.' Oh, that single cello! 'It was during this sorrow that Love came to me.' A voice filled with harmony, that said: 'Live still, I am Life! Heaven is in your eyes. Is everything around you just the blood and the mud? I am Divine. I am Oblivion. I am the God that comes down from the heavens to the Earth and makes of the Earth a Heaven. I am Love! I am Love!'"
Maria Callas' Opera Aria "La Momma Morta"
  • the scene in the beginning of the courtroom case when Joe presented an opening speech to defend Beckett after he was allegedly fired from his prestigious Philadelphia law firm for having AIDS, but protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act: ("Forget everything you've seen on television. There's not going to be any surprise, last minute witnesses..."); he ended with the forceful statement: "But no matter how you come to judge Charles Wheeler and his partners in ethical, moral, and inhuman terms, the fact of the matter is, when they fired Andrew Beckett because he had AIDS, they broke the law")
  • the sequence of Miller's forceful questioning of Jamey Collins (Bradley Whitford), one of the law firm partners when he asked whether he was homosexual: "Answer the question! Are you a homo? Are you a faggot? You know, a punk, a queen, pillow biter, fairy, bootie snatcher, rump roaster? Are you gay?"
  • Miller's blunt assessment of the case: "Let's get it out of the closet. Because this case is not just about AIDS, is it? So let's talk about what this case is really all about: The general public's hatred, our loathing, our fear of homosexuals, and how that climate of hatred and fear translated into the firing of this particular homosexual, my client, Andrew Beckett"
  • the law firm's defense lawyer Belinda Conine (Mary Steenburgen) - after resorting to low-blow tactics -- muttered under her breath her distaste for the fraudulent case: "I hate this case" to her black partner
  • the dramatic scene when Miller asked for Beckett to open his shirt and display AIDS-related open lesions on his chest to the courtroom
  • the hospital scene of Beckett with his long-term male lover Miguel Alvarez (Antonio Banderas) after first bidding farewell to family and friends (his father briefly said: "Goodnight, son. Try to get some rest, okay? Okay. I love you, Andy," and Andrew's supportive mother Sarah (Joanne Woodward) whispered: "Goodnight, my angel, my sweet boy"),
Goodbyes From Andy's Family Members
  • then alone when he turned down the lights, he told Miguel: "Miguel, I'm ready," and then removed his own oxygen mask
Andy's Removal of Oxygen Mask
Home Movies During Funeral Reception
  • the final scene during the reception held in the Beckett home following the funeral, mourners watched home movies of Andrew's younger days, to the tune of Neil Young's Philadelphia

Andy's Dismissal by Charles Wheeler (James Robards)

Andy Beckett (Tom Hanks)

Joe Miller (Denzel Washington)

"Uncomfortable" Library Scene

Miller's Opening Statement

Miller's Forceful Questioning of The Sexual Orientation of Mr. Collins

The Law Firm's Defense Lawyer Belinda Conine (Mary Steenburgen)

Miller's Discussion of the Case

Andy's Open Lesions


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